This is the twenty-third part of a fiction serial, in 730 words.
The old mobile homes had been stripped out inside, leaving room for two mattresses in the front section, and two more at the back, behind a sliding door. The small kitchen area had just enough utensils for four people, and the tiny toilet cubicle also had an overhead shower that ran away through a drain in the floor. Basic wasn’t enough to descibe the dismal interior, with dirty curtains that didn’t fully close, and one small electric fan heater in each of the sleeping areas. No table to eat at, and no television or radio. I wondered how long I could stand this place being my home. There were some things piled in the far corner, and the crumpled bedding suggested one person was already living there.
My van was parked out of sight of the complex, and I had brought along a rucksack containing my clothes, not wanting anyone to know I had access to a vehicle. I took some cans of soft drink from that, and opened the miniature fridge to find it empty. Thinking better of putting my cans into the dirty fridge, I opened one and drank it, putting the rest back. Trying to kill some time, I walked around a bit, but there was little to see. At the rear of the first greenhouse, I discovered two very smart motor-homes, which I guessed where were Anton and his fellow gangers lived. I got back into my dingy slum to find a young man sitting on a mattress next to the stuff in the corner. He was eating something from a large plastic container, and spoke to me with his mouth full.
“Yours is over there. You Ricky, Yes? My name is Roman, I speak good English. You English? Nobody English work here but you”. I turned to where he had indicated I could find my meal, and picked up the container, which felt microwave hot. Taking a spoon from the small drawer, I opened the lid, and looked at the contents. It was a red-looking stew of sorts, with visible chunks of beef and potatoes, all sitting on a big portion of white rice. Roman spoke again. “Eat. Good. Goulash. Nice food.” I took it over and sat next to him, eating slowly as it was so hot. “Just you and me here in this house, Ricky. More come next week, then we be full. Maybe you and me take room with the door? We share, yes?” I nodded as I ate. He looked to be younger than me, maybe only eighteen or nineteen. “I from Poland, Ricky, near Lublin. No work. Where you from?”
I decided to lie, and told him I was from Bristol. “Not london then? I want go London. Lots of Polish there. When I pay back my loan to Anton, I move to London”. When we had finished eating, he took a packet of cigarettes from his pocket, offering one to me. I shook my head, and he lit one, blowing smoke all over me. “I have beer, Ricky. You want beer?” I shook my head again and watched as he reached under the pile of clothes and retrieved a can. “Tomorrow, I go get our breakfast and bring it back, okay? Then we have lunch break at job. Start seven-thirty, finish five thirty. Day off Sunday, okay?” It seemed he had been designated to be my mentor for now, so I nodded and smiled.
The evening dragged, to be honest. Roman told me a great deal about his life in eastern Poland, his family, and his decent education. Then we moved his stuff into the closed off bedroom, and I joined him in there with mine. He seemed to want to talk all night, but I was aware that we had to get up early. With no Internet to speak of, the evening was dull, and I used what was available on my phone to look up the places he was talking about, and his reminiscences of life in Lublin. At no time did he mention being afraid of anything, despite my occasional prompting by lying about having various phobias.
Then as we started to settle down for the night in our shared room, he rolled over and looked at me.
“Do you like boys like me, Ricky? It’s okay if you do. I like you a lot”.